Violations of Texas Penal Code 42.01 – Disorderly Conduct

Statutes

Texas Penal Code, Title 9, Chapter 42

Elements of Disorderly Conduct In Texas, to prove disorderly conduct, a prosecutor must prove that the conduct was performed both intentionally and knowingly. If the conduct was being performed either unintentionally or if the person did not know their conduct was disturbing the peace, it will likely be insufficient to prove disorderly conduct.

 

Sometimes, prosecutors may offer a plea deal in which a charge of a more serious crime may be reduced down to that of disorderly conduct in exchange for the defendant’s agreement to plead guilty, or perhaps to help the prosecutor with information for a higher priority investigation.

Possible Defenses
  • Provocation for abusive or threatening conduct
  • Reasonable fear of bodily harm by a dangerous wild animal for discharging a firearm
  • Being a student in the sixth grade or lower grade level and the conduct occurred at a public school campus during school hours.
  • Lack of knowledge
  • You did not commit the act
  • You did not use fighting words, even if your language included profanity or vulgarity
Penalties
  • Class C misdemeanor in most cases, punishable by a fine of no more than $500
  • Class B misdemeanor if the conduct deals with discharging or displaying a firearm in a public place with the intention of alarming others, funeral picketing, obstructing a highway, disrupting a meeting, and making silent or abusive 911 calls, punishable by up to 180 days in jail, a fine of up to $2,000, or both.
  • Texas has broad sentencing guidelines. The penalty imposed is up to the discretion of the judge, and sometimes will come from a recommendation by the prosecutor.

It is not enough that a person engaged in conduct that merely annoyed, harassed, or embarrassed someone else.

If fighting was involved, it must have been unlawful, and not in self-defense or the defense of others.

  • To determine guilt, courts look at the particular circumstances of each case.
  • Some of the factors a judge may consider include the location, time, place, words, actions, and the person spoken to or touched (for example, a police officer, teacher, student, relative or passerby).

Additionally, conduct prohibited by disturbing the peace laws may expose the perpetrator to civil liability in a private nuisance lawsuit as discussed above.

COMMON ACTIONS THAT DO NOT CONSTITUTE DISTURBING THE PEACE CAN INCLUDE:

  • Engaging in horseplay
  • Simply embarrassing someone
  • Merely annoying someone
  • Accidentally bumping into someone
  • Giving someone a gesture such as the middle finger, (sometimes even against a police officer).
  • However, even if a person’s actions are non-violent, criminal liability can still apply if they are likely to incite violence or public disorder.
  • Code of Criminal Procedure Article 18.16 “Preventing Consequences of Theft

RELATED OFFENSES

  • Other offenses related to disturbing the peace include public intoxication, disorderly conduct, indecent exposure, and public nuisance, which can be charged in addition to disturbing the peace.
  • Additionally, conduct prohibited by disturbing the peace laws may expose the perpetrator to civil liability in a private nuisance lawsuit as discussed above.
  • Code of Criminal Procedure Art. 14.01 Arrest Without Warrant
  • Code of Criminal Procedure Art. 14.06 Must Take Offender Before A Magistrate
  • “Without delay” means within the reasonable time allowed by custom, statute, or usage or without unnecessary delay or within 48 hours.

Not later than 48 hours after the person is arrested, before the magistrate who may have ordered the arrest, before some magistrate of the county where the arrest was made without an order, or, to provide more expeditiously to the person arrested the warnings described by Article 15.17 of this Code, before a magistrate in any other county of this state.